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UAE coach sees improvement in defeat

The UAE fell 76-72 to Syria in their final game at the Fiba Asia Championship, but coach Zoran Zupcevic is pleased with how his team fought.

The UAE fell 76-72 to Syria in their final game at the Fiba Asia Championship on Saturday, but the coach, Zoran Zupcevic, said he was pleased with his team's 10th-place finish at the continental event in Wuhon, China.

Zupcevic said he was impressed that his players competed so well in the two games in the ninth-place pool, defeating Malaysia before giving Syria a scare.

"We won one and I think fought very well" against Syria, the Bosnian told the FibaAsia.net website. "To me, that is a lot of improvement.

"Improvement in rankings will automatically come with such an attitude. For that matter, we already have a higher ranking than the last two occasions."

The UAE were 16th in the 2007 continental championship and 12th two years ago. Their best finish was fifth in 1997. They are ranked No 65 in the world.

Hussain Ahmed, who plays for the Al Shabab club, led the UAE with 19 points, including three three-pointers. Mohammed Al Braiki, of Al Ahli, had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The UAE had an unusually productive game from their big men; Jasim Abdullah, of Sharjah, scored 13 points with seven rebounds; Qais Al Shabebi had 11 and six.

The UAE led by as many as seven points in the first half despite losing their standout, Rashid Al Zaabi, the Al Wasl guard, just 30 seconds into the game.

They trailed by only one, 64-63, with six minutes to play before Syria responded with a 10-0 surge.

Jordan surprised the Philippines 75-61 to reach the championship game. In the other semi-final, China topped South Korea 56-43.

The winner of the tournament goes to the 2012 Olympics. The No 2 and 3 sides move on to a 12-team qualifying tournament in July with the top three earning entry to the London Games.

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